Sidney Crosby has already enjoyed a year for the ages, and our mid-season awards picks project he’ll keep the good times rolling with another MVP.
The New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets played their 41st games of the 2016-17 season Wednesday night, and 28 more teams will join them within the next week or so. We’ve reached the season’s halfway point. It’s thus time to hand out our imaginary mid-season awards. Our nine-member panel of THN writers and editors was remarkably cohesive in choosing winners for the Hart, Vezina, Norris and Calder Trophies and the Jack Adams Award. We’ve seen such strong standout performances from a few special individuals this season that it was easy to single them out. First-place votes earned five points, second-place earned three and third-place earned one.
- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (37 points)
- Connor McDavid, Edmonton (21 points)
- Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota (14 points)
McDavid has faded a bit since his sizzling start, with just two goals and five points in his past 10 games, letting Crosby and Evgeni Malkin catch up in the league scoring race. Crosby, of course, rubs shoulders with them despite having missed six games. His 26 goals in 32 games are a remarkable feat, especially when NHL-wide scoring continues to dip. His projected adjusted goal total on hockey-reference.com sits at 63. Only two players in the past 20 seasons have bettered that era-adjusted total. Shoutout to Dubnyk for representing goalies in our MVP vote. If we accept the award’s true definition of going to the player judged most valuable to his team, Dubnyk may be the most deserving of all. The Wild are nowhere near the same team without his stellar effort.
Also receiving Hart votes: Sergei Bobrovsky, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brent Burns
- Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota (33 points)
- Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus (31 points)
- Carey Price, Montreal (17 points)
Price ranks a distant third in this vote. It’s all about the neck-and-neck battle between Dubnyk and Bobrovsky. Dubnyk gets the nod, leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.75), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (five), but ‘Bob’ is charging hard, riding a 14-game winning streak and earning December’s NHL player of the month honors. All nine voters selected some combination of these three goalies. No one else received a single vote.
- Brent Burns, San Jose (45 points)
- Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay (19 points)
- Drew Doughty, Los Angeles; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (6 points)
Burns was our only unanimous winner for any award, earning nine first-place votes. It appeared his massive 2015-16 campaign couldn’t be matched but, somehow, Burns is on pace to exceed it. He averages almost a point per game, he leads all NHLers, defensemen or not, in shots on goal, and he’s a dominant presence at both ends of the ice. He’s the most complete and impactful blueliner on the planet right now, and it will take quite a collapse for him to lose the Norris in the second half. Hedman sits alone in second. His offense has spiked considerably and he remains a powerhouse shutdown defenseman according to his possession numbers.
Also receiving Norris votes: Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dougie Hamilton, Duncan Keith, Justin Schultz
- Auston Matthews, Toronto (41 points)
- Patrik Laine, Winnipeg (21 points)
- Zach Werenski, Columbus (21 points)
Matthews’ dominant December put him on track for easily the best rookie performance in a century of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey. He’s already one of the best players, let alone rookies, in the game, and he’s pulled away from Laine and Werenski, both of whom have been outstanding freshmen. It was a bit surprising to see sensational shooter Laine tie Werenski given how inconsistent Laine has been. Werenski has been a true difference maker on Columbus’ blueline from Game 1 of the season. He’s the franchise’s most important player long term.
Also receiving Calder votes: Matt Murray
JACK ADAMS AWARD
- John Tortorella, Columbus (41 points)
- Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota (22 points)
- Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh (13 points)
It had to be Torts. The Blue Jackets’ roster turned over very little this past off-season, meaning the remarkable transformation has come from within. Tortorella, who champions tremendous fitness, got military-like buy-in from his players. The Jackets are an energetic, tenacious machine, and Tortorella deserves plenty of credit. Boudreau, always a master of team takeovers, has predictably made magic in his first season with Minnesota. Sullivan’s up-tempo system leads to dominant possession play, already won him a Stanley Cup and has helped Pittsburgh skate stride for stride with Columbus.
Also receiving Jack Adams votes: Alain Vigneault, Mike Babcock, Joel Quenneville